On 18th September 2008 the Scottish Government published a consultation paper on modernising the jury system.
Responses are invited on a range of proposals including :
- Allowing 65 to 70 year olds to sit on trial juries (mirroring the usual age of retirement for judges – a point made at paragraph 3.3 of the consultation paper); and
- To reduce the jury service exemption period from 5 to 2 years for those called to attend court as potential jurors but are not subsequently balloted to serve on a trial jury.
Other topics are raised for response, including a proposal to remove the occupation related exemptions which currently excuses as of right members of the legal profession and those working in legal services from jury membership. The equivalent restriction was removed in England and Wales following the Review of the Criminal Courts of England and Wales, by Auld, LJ in October 2001, has already seen judges as jurors in some cases in reality (and in TV drama).
One of the more controversial topics raised is a proposal to reduce the size of juries in criminal cases from 15. This is raised partly on grounds of cost (para 7.4) and based on examination of jury size in other systems (albeit in inquisitorial rather than adversarial systems). The consultation paper acknowledges that proposals to reduce the size of the jury would open up the question of whether a simple majority for conviction would remain appropriate.
Views are invited on these and other topics and the consultation period runs until 11th December.